Crouch: Changes to Star Could Cost Taxpayers

May 2, 2019

With the passage of the state budget on April 1, some drastic changes have been made to the STAR program, an initiative aimed at providing much-needed tax relief to homeowners. The STAR program was created in 1997 to reduce school tax bills for property owners who qualify and since has gone through some serious changes. More confusing changes have been implemented with the passage of this year’s budget that could potentially cost taxpayers who are unaware of the changes.

Under the new requirements, if homeowners receive their STAR savings as a property tax exemption, they will need to withdraw from the exemption program and register for the STAR School credit check to maximize their benefit. To do this homeowners must first notify their local assessor requesting renunciation of their existing exemption. Next, they will have to apply for a personal income tax STAR credit check with the Department of Taxation and Finance, which can be done on the website here.

After following those steps you will no longer receive the STAR exemption on your school property tax bill and you should receive your STAR credit check in the mail when school tax bills are sent.

Another new change made this year is that homeowners making more than $250,000 need to switch to the STAR credit check program. If you make up to $500,000 and still want to receive your benefit, be sure to follow the steps above and apply for a credit check or risk losing your STAR benefit altogether. No deadline has been provided for people who fall under the $250,000 bracket, but if you do not make the change, your STAR exemption will remain frozen at last year’s level.

Elderly individuals and low-income households may be hit hardest by the new changes to the STAR program, due to the fact that they may not be able to pay their school taxes up front while they wait to receive their STAR credit check.

Hopefully this is the last round of changes to the STAR program, but I have a hard time believing that is possible. The state Department of Taxation and finance claims the changes are being made to make it easier to track the STAR program, but the real reason is to help Gov. Cuomo and state Majority politicians keep the state spending below 2%. Credit property tax checks are tied to tax revenue and recorded as a reduction in revenue going to the state; exemptions, however, are a state expense.

It seems the constantly-changing STAR program will continue to be manipulated at the expense of taxpayers. Ironically, these changes are just another unfortunate burden placed on taxpayers, deriving from a program aimed at giving them a bit of a relief.

For more information on the changes to the STAR program or to change the way you receive the STAR savings, please visit the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance website here.